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U.S. marines to be posted at new AIT compound in Taipei: ex-director

2017/02/16 13:46:32

Washington, Feb. 15 (CNA) The United States will post marines at the new compound of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) to protect the mission, once the compound is completed and AIT personnel are moved to the new site in Taipei's Neihu District, former AIT Director Stephen Young said Wednesday.

Young, who served as AIT director 2006-2009, said he had pushed strongly for the U.S. to "have a marine security detachment protecting the mission in Taipei" and that he is "proud to say that it is the case today."

The retired U.S. diplomat made the remarks during a speech at a conference held by Global Taiwan Institute, a think tank in Washington, to discuss U.S. President Donald Trump's Taiwan policy.

The headquarters of the AIT's Taipei Office is currently located in the city's Daan District. AIT has said that its personnel will be moved to the new office compound in Neihu sometime this year.

Speaking of the new office compound, Young said that "we made sure when we were designing our new office building that we were going to build a very nice marine house for our guys there."

This is not only because they deserve it for their own purposes "but because when you go around the world, a marine house is the social center of any diplomatic corps and it will be in Taipei as well," he said.

This will be "a symbolic expression" of the U.S. commitment to its friends in Taiwan, said Young.

It is not known whether marines standing guard at the new AIT compound will wear a military uniform, as their counterparts do when protecting U.S. embassies in other countries.

U.S. marines are posted at U.S. overseas missions around the world to protect the diplomatic facilities and the personnel stationed there. A marine house is built to accommodate marine guards posted at U.S. overseas missions.

Since Taipei and Washington severed diplomatic ties in 1979, there have been no U.S. marines stationed at the AIT office, as the U.S. maintains only unofficial ties with Taiwan.

A de facto embassy in nature, the AIT is a private entity established in 1979 to manage U.S. relations with Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

Having U.S. marines posted at the new AIT compound in Taipei would likely be seen here as an indication of warm relations between the U.S. and Taiwan.

The AIT has not commented.

There were media reports last year that the AIT will have U.S. marine personnel based at the new compound. But at the time, AIT Director Kin Moy did not confirm this.

(By Rita Cheng and Elaine Hou)